Sitting in the Martin Luther King Jr Convocation at the college where I work, watching a film clip from the Freedom Riders documentary, experiencing a sound wave of drumming as it moved from the back of the auditorium, and hearing the Rev. C.T. Vivian share powerful insights, I was moved to tears that cascaded out of a tired and broken heart. Through those saltly jewels I was released from my existential ennui and thankfully moved back to a palpable hunger for passionate, committed, visionary, intentional action on behalf of the least among us and our fragile planet.
I believe deeply in the power of words and sure, I need regular fellowship that calls me to different spiritual experiences. But the third leg of my Christian practice must be action. I am talking about myself here but I am also talking about the church, y’all know that right? Be it mainliners or emergents, be it the UCC, PC(USA), UMC, ELCA or some awesomely funky, sofa & latte worshipping body, we are called by Jesus to more than a faith that is all about me and my feeeeelings. We are called to do more than gather for one more worship, retreat, conference or theology on tap (though all of those are VERY important, especially the ones with beer). In the end, it really is not about my individual “salvation” as much as it is about what I can do to change the world. Sure, theology and ecclesiology rock, but action is IT.
I am hungry to know where there is action and where action is needed on the fronts of: striving for equal civil/human rights for all; ensuring better access to education and healthcare regardless of race or class; holding industries accountable for fair, livable wages; ending violence against women; putting a stop to sexual slavery; enacting compassionate immigration reform; reversing the systems that create debilitating poverty; rethinking (and maybe ending) the death penalty; addressing the marginalization of differently abled folks, and ceasing the ecological rape of our planet…just to name a few.
Yes we need to read, talk, preach and listen, we need to gather and prepare, but we can not stop there. If all Dr. King did was think, preach, speak and fellowship then we would not have been changed as a nation. “We have to create what has to be. It’s in the action we find out who we are. It’s in the action we find out what this nation is.” said the Rev. C.T. Vivian this afternoon.
Where are the freedom riders of today? Who is willing to risk their very lives for human rights, economic justice, and creation care? Who are you, where are you – won’t you please step forward, pull us out of our self-righteous, fear-laced stupor and lead us into a new age of collaborative kingdom building?
Let me share some wise thoughts from the Rev. Anne Howard, Executive Director of The Beatitudes Society.
“I would love to see the church act, but I know that church has always been big on talk and slow on action. When I look to see social change today, the kind of innovative change that cares for the least among us and that does good in the world, I don’t look to the church, I look to social enterprises and social entrepreneurs who are doing creative work in caring for the creation. But I don’t want to give up on the church; I want the church to be open to the kind of entrepreneurial leaders who can help change the church, and grow new churches that are willing to engage in the kind of hands-on challenge to the status quo that we see in Jesus.
I do think we are at a new moment in our country–a new “consciousness” Joe Biden says–that was born out of the deaths of the children at Sandy Hook. This is a time for local action and national legislation, all in the name of safety for our children. Unless we can keep our kids safe, we can’t begin to talk about education or health care or climate change or anything else. This is a time for people of faith, in all kinds of churches, to act on behalf of our children: it’s time for practicing civil conversation—actually having conversations in our church settings about the guns we keep in our homes. It’s time to honor our democracy by using it: to let our legislators know that money can’t care for our children; only their courage can.
I hope that we can be thoughtful, that we can be smart, that we can listen–more than talk—so that we can learn from folks who are doing good in the world. I hope that we can be vulnerable to take some risks and try some new ways to be the church in the world, and for the world. And it likely won’t look like your father’s church.”
Anne, through her leadership at The Beatitudes Society is putting resources and mentorship where her faith is. The Beatitudes Society provides “entrepreneurial faith leaders with the resources and relationships that empower them to create new models for church and the pursuit of social justice.”
Check it out!
The Beatitudes Fellowship provides each Fellow:
- A $10,000 award
- A yearlong series of quarterly Fellows’ gatherings in Berkeley, CA
- Customized resources and advisors: how to choose and work with coaches, mentors and other leaders in a widening network of resources
- Evaluation and strategic planning: how to figure out what each Fellow needs in their ministry, from the tangible (people, money, time) to the intangible (faith, hope, courage)
- Teaching, preaching, and story-telling workshops: how to tell the story of your innovative ministry project
- Community-building workshops: how to engage your congregation in change
- Sustaining spiritual formation: how to lead from within, incorporating the practices and principles of deep listening, creating hospitable spaces, holding the tensions of paradox, developing a spirit of inquiry
- Peer community with other entrepreneurial leaders: time to relax and connect
And guess what, they are in the process of receiving nominations fo the next cohort of fellows right now!
“Fellows are nominated by key professional colleagues, and selected nominees then complete an application process that includes an online application and description of their project due, as well as a personal interview. Nominations are open now through March 1, 2013 for 2013 Fellows; Fellows will be announced in May.” Click here to learn more about applying.
This I believe – faith without works is dead. We are called to work for good in the world, to partner with God to bend the arc, not to earn grace but in response to grace.